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The Update, It Is A-Changin'

This will be the last edition of Redmond Partner Update.

Whoa... stop that screaming and crying! Everything is going to be OK... the newsletter isn't going away. We're just changing the name. Beginning with our next issue, on June 5, Redmond Partner Update will become RCP Update -- as in Redmond Channel Partner, the magazine and Web site ( -- bookmark it if you haven't already) that make this little e-mail adventure possible. Also, as of June 5, look for e-mails from "Redmond Channel Partner" in your inbox, not from "Redmond Partner." Please adjust your spam filters accordingly.

But wait -- there's more! Beginning in June, RCP Update (see, you're already getting used to the new name) will hit your inbox twice a week, every week, on Mondays and Wednesdays. That's right! Twice the (extremely) subtle humor! Twice the stale pop-culture references! Twice the insight into all things -- or, at least, the most interesting things -- Microsoft! It’s hard to believe that we give this away for free... but we do, and you'll be getting more of it soon. Stay tuned, and thanks again for reading.

Anything in particular you’d like to see as we enter a new era? Drop me a line at [email protected].

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Mr. Ballmer Goes To Wall Street
If you were paying attention, you'll remember an article in the Update from a couple of weeks ago about Microsoft investors rebelling over the company's deflated stock price. They want Microsoft to peel a few bills off of its wad of cash and buy back some stock, a not-uncommon action among big companies that would, in theory, raise the Redmond stock price, which has been flat-to-sinking for a while now.

Well, Steve Ballmer -- take-charge guy that he's always been -- went to New York's famed Waldorf=Astoria Hotel this week to lay some smack down to his bosses, those pesky, vision-less institutional investors. He talked investment. He talked return on investment. He talked MSN. He talked a lot... and said very little, at least according to this article:

We'll say it again -- watch this story. Seriously. And we'll keep watching it for you. It's a very big deal. At stake are not just Microsoft's financial health and the portfolios of a few big investors, but also the future of MSN and maybe the eventual winner of the Microsoft-Google war.

In fact, a big chunk of Microsoft's future is at stake. Massive investment in MSN, which has been a dud for about a decade now, is a huge gamble for Redmond given Google's dominance -- which just keeps growing -- in the search space. Microsoft is pumping billions into the effort to catch Google, an effort that has resulted only in the Redmondians falling further and further behind their mysterious Nor-Cal rivals. Search dominance might end up being a bridge too far for Redmond even if investors let Ballmer dole out cash however he wants.

But, if the money spinners keep Ballmer in check, Microsoft can kiss its search ambitions goodbye, which could leave the door wide open for Google to make a real run at the rest of the empire. Think about it: Google has serious traction on the Web now. It's a verb, a household name. The brand experts at a company called Millward Brown say that it's one of the top 10 most powerful brands in the world, technology or otherwise -- bigger than Disney, McDonald's or Ford. (Of course, those same experts say that Microsoft is No. 1 -- for now.)

You’ve probably seen news by now of Google's deal with Dell.

Don’t make more out of that than what's there. First of all, if Google really did pay $1 billion for this deal, that smacks of a bit of unusual desperation coming out of the Bay Area. After all, who doesn’t just go to Google for a web search now? When was the last time you went a day without Googling? Do the mystery men of the Web really need to pay big bucks so that Dell users will see that famous, colorful logo on their home pages rather than MSN's butterfly (or whatever that thing is)? Probably not. But the Google guys probably don't mind the (mostly positive) publicity.

Beyond that, despite what some analysts are saying (with some interesting comments here and here, this isn’t a major salvo in the battle for the desktop. Oh, no. This is just a little tactical maneuver. Just wait until Google gets serious with the release of a browser or -- why not? -- an operating system.

Then, we'll really see a battle. And if Steve Ballmer is, under pressure from investors, more worried about his stock price than about innovation and competition -- in other words, if Microsoft really has become a sort of bloated, IBM-in-the-80s style monolith -- we really might eventually have a new desktop sheriff in town. That’s Microsoft’s dilemma: Google is riding high and courting Redmond’s old friends; it has carte blanche to spend, to innovate and to conquer. Meanwhile, the old empire has to keep its investors happy while lumbering around and trying to catch a hipper, nimbler competitor. Mr. Ballmer, welcome to Wall Street. Welcome to the tightrope.

Would you like to see a Google OS? What do you think of the Google-Dell deal? Let me know at [email protected].

Ultimately, It's Expensive
It's going to cost $679 for Office 2007 Ultimate Edition and $450 for Vista Ultimate. Kind of makes that whole, open-source option look a little more attractive, doesn't it?

Tell me what you think about the cost of Microsoft’s new generation of software at [email protected].

On The Road(map) Again
Here's Mary Joe Foley with a whole mess of good information on what's coming out of Redmond in the collaboration space. This is definitely worth a click.

What You Said
Once again, many thanks for your e-mails and thoughts. Here's a smorgasbord of reader responses to close out the RPU era and usher in the age of RCP Update:

Mike writes all the way from Ingerlund (England to those who have never watched a World Cup game in an English pub) to tell me what he's doing with virtualization. Hopefully some of the folks out there playing around with this stuff will find this useful. I thank Mike for his input:

"I have been investigating the possibility of leveraging a virtual infrastructure of a site I'm working on. The project I'm working involves:

  • Domain controllers x 2
  • File and Print server
  • Application Server
  • SQL Server
  • E-mail Server
  • Security Server
  • Fax Server

The first thing I came across is that you can not virtualize things like fax servers as they rely on non-average hardware and any application that requires a parallel port software key (dongle). Secondly (this is with VMWare -- I have not tested/investigated Microsoft's offering) if you have an application that will experience data growth, consider FC SAN or IP SAN. The advantage of a SAN is that you can grow the amount of committed disk space within a virtual volume of apparent volume size, e.g. you may want to provision 300GB partition for the data, but initially it only needs 100GB, with a SAN this can be done without interruptions to the Windows OS and the backup only backs up the data used. However with VMWare you need, for efficiency, to have a 300GB virtual volume which is a single file. If the size needs growing you have to take the server down to let Windows know it has changed, just like DAS and as the 300GB volume is a file you have to back up 300GB always even if the data only covers 50GB.

I can see where virtualization can be used. However there are practical limits as to what you can virtualize and how you provision storage. On the other hand the disaster recovery, load and resource management is what attracted me to the product in the first place."

Greg likes what we had to say about Best Buy for Business potentially getting bitten by the company's retail operations:

"Amen.. You said it all.. What amazes me is how they are able to stay in business and repeatedly continue to perform these types of scenarios on unsuspecting customers. I can only guess it is because of volume. You and I would be out of business, in short order, if we even thought of treating our customers that way. Some adages never die, treat others as you would want to be treated."

Superb, Greg. Thanks.

Stephen says Vista is working just fine for him:

"I have been working with the Vista pre release since the alpha versions. Since the February 2005 release, I have been very happy with the performance and installations. I am having no real problems to speak of. Just my 2 cents."

Good to hear, Stephen. Thanks.

And, finally, my favorite e-mail of the bunch (not that I don't love them all) comes from Ric, whose knowledge of '60s rock far outstrips mine. I was wondering whether anybody followed all the Beatles references in the Vista beta article that recently ran in the Update. Ric did, and more. Here's his comment on my comparison of open-source software to Herman's Hermits:

"Please don't forget that Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones were studio musicians for Herman's Hermits. Now close your eyes and think for a minute what might be coming from open source in, say, 3-4 years... OR it all may go down like a Led Zeppelin.

Sorry. It was the fist thing that popped into my head when I read your article. At lease we'll only have to worry about a few good releases and then two spin offs."

Don't apologize, Ric. That was a tremendous e-mail.

Anybody else have anything to say? Say it here: [email protected]. Thanks again to those who have sent messages to me (and if you haven't read your comments here yet, stay tuned). And thanks to everybody for reading.

Posted by Lee Pender on May 31, 2006